Terrorism, like urban crime, is one of those things that you’re not supposed to think about too much. It’s fine to talk about your emotions after a bombing or a mugging. You can even share stories and eventually learn to laugh about it. What you cannot do is talk about where it comes from except in the vaguest terms of social conditions. Like pollution from industry or corruption from government, it’s one of those toxic spinoffs of our modern society. It’s just there and we don’t much talk about it.
Islamic terrorism is considered a social problem in Europe. Ask an expert and they’ll talk your ear off about unemployment, racism, overcrowded housing and the same long list of reasons used to explain urban crime. The United States is slowly coming around to that same point of view.
Forget the great debate between whether people kill people or guns kill people. The conclusion reached by most governments before your grandfather was born is that social conditions kill people.
The Tsarneav brothers are being talked about in the same way that most serial killers are. “They were so nice. What made them do it?” It’s the empty repetition of a question to which no one really wants to hear the answer. “What could have made them do it?” isn’t a genuine question, it’s a ceremonial washing of the hands. A ritualistic statement that we couldn’t have known anything was wrong. How could we? They were so nice.
Tamerlan Tsarneav slapped around one girlfriend, dragged another into a barefoot, pregnant and veiled arrangement, and went around telling everyone they were infidels. Sure he might have settled down at some point, picked up his membership card in the requisite front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood and limited his terrorist activities to donating to Islamic charities that just happen to do business in the middle of war zones. He could have stuck to beating his wife in the privacy of his home and told his neighbors that America would one day be destroyed knowing they would only nod and walk away humming, “But he’s so nice”.